Coronavirus Impact on OHO Hearings
In response to COVID-19, and its recent increased prevalence within the United States, the Office of Hearing Officers (OHO) has administratively postponed all in-person hearings of Disciplinary Proceedings scheduled through October 2, 2020. Parties with hearings scheduled through this date will be contacted by OHO staff to reschedule or discuss remote hearing options. Please note that postponing a hearing will not affect other deadlines established in the Disciplinary Proceeding. All scheduled deadlines will continue to apply and must be timely met unless the Hearing Officer orders otherwise. Hearings scheduled to occur after October 2, 2020, will be assessed on a case-by-case basis to determine if FINRA will conduct or further postpone each individual hearing.
OHO currently offers an option for a virtual hearing (via Zoom) to parties in Disciplinary Proceedings. These services provide high-quality, private, user-friendly options for conducting video hearings and sharing documents remotely. Case Administrators from OHO virtually attend hearings to provide technical support and facilitate the videoconference. Hearings conducted by videoconference enable all parties and witnesses to see, hear, and communicate with the Hearing Panel while safely participating in the hearing from their homes or offices. OHO also makes available a Virtual Hearing Guide for Parties. Parties that are interested in exploring this option are encouraged to contact the OHO Case Administrator assigned to their proceedings for details.
FINRA filed a temporary proposed rule change for immediate effectiveness, SR-FINRA-2020-027, which temporarily amends, among others, FINRA Rules 9261 and 9830 to allow hearings in connection with disciplinary actions and temporary and permanent cease and desist orders to be conducted by video conference, if warranted by the current COVID-19-related public health risks posed by an in-person hearing. The temporary amendments in SR-FINRA-2020-027 become operative on October 1, 2020, and are in effect through December 31, 2020, pending any future extensions.
When OHO permits in-person disciplinary hearings to resume, until further notice, all disciplinary hearings, regardless of where originally scheduled to occur, will take place at a single location in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The consolidation of hearings in a single location enables OHO to better assess public health conditions in light of the evolving pandemic and provide a venue that can support the appropriate health and safety protocols. OHO is monitoring the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area to assess when public health conditions would permit a resumption of in-person disciplinary hearings. Furthermore, FINRA has partnered with public health experts to create health, safety, and security preparedness plans for in-person hearings.
Expedited Proceedings generally are not conducted in person. Thus, Expedited Proceedings will proceed as scheduled.
While working remotely, OHO will continue to serve and accept service of notices, orders, pleadings, and other documents, in both Disciplinary and Expedited Proceedings, by email.
Parties with questions about these or any other aspects of pending cases should contact the OHO Case Administrator assigned to their proceedings.